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New Guinea Singing Dog
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
Species: C. lupus
Subspecies: C. l. hallstromi
Trinomial name
Canis lupus hallstromi
Troughton, 1958

The New Guinea Singing Dog (Canis lupus hallstromi), known as NGSD, New Guinea Highland Dog, or Singer, is a type of wild dog that is native to New Guinea. Singers are classified as a subspecies of Canis lupus and related to the Australian Dingo. Singers have remained isolated from other dogs for almost 6000 years,[2] making them possibly the oldest of the pariah dogs. Today the dwindling wild populations still exist in the Highlands, all that remain of a breed which is thought to have once inhabited the whole of the Island of New Guinea. No confirmed sightings had been reported for years until recently. At least one animal was reportedly sighted by local guides at Lake Tawa[3]. In 1995, the entire captive population was estimated at approximately 300[4], but today there may be as few as 200. They are exceptionally intelligent, but hard to keep because of wild behavioural traits. With proper training and socialization, they will live with humans in a "home" environment. They are recognized as a breed by the United Kennel Club, which places them in the Sighthound & Pariah Group. New Guinea Singing Dogs are unique in their ability to howl in a wolf-like manner, but unlike wolves, Singers can modulate the pitch, hence their name.


Physical description

They have a fox-like appearance, with a double coat ranging in color from red to brown (with a melanistic mask in some individuals), and a characteristically large carnassial tooth. They stand between 14 and 18 inches (36 to 46 cm) at the shoulder and weigh 17 to 30 pounds (8 to 14 kg) as adults.

They have proportionately short legs and large heads compared to other canis. They are shorter in height at the withers than dingoes. The skull is slightly wider than a dingo's.[5]

A Singer, singing

History and study

In the 1950s, Sir Edward Hallstrom brought the first pair out of the Southern Highlands District of Papua New Guinea to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, and it was first classified from those specimens as a distinct species, Canis hallstromi (Troughton, 1957). Currently the NGSD is classified as a domestic dog subspecies of Canis lupus, Canis lupus hallstromi.[6]

The New Guinea Singing Dog has never been studied in the wild and virtually nothing is known concerning its behavior, social organization or general natural history under free-ranging conditions; and as of 2004, there were less than 50 specimens (all highly inbred) in the documented NGSD captive breeding population.[7] Most of the NGSD in North America have descended from the original Taronga Zoo pair, and one German import. In 1976 five were brought from Irian Jaya to the Domestic Animal Institute in Keil, Germany. No others have been captured from the wild.[8] One singing dog was seen in 1991 in the highlands below Mount Trikora by a British Climbing expedition, and in 2007 mammalogist Dr. Kris Helgen reported them in the Kaijende Highlands, Enga Province, PNG.

In general, NGSD show all the behaviors described for other Canis species with the exception of the "play bow", typical to most canids but not seen in the NGSD.[9] However, there have been cases in which NGSDs have attacked other domestic dogs due to misconstruing attempts to play.[10] Captive populations (the only ones studied) do not form packs, and wild sightings are of single dogs or pairs. They have a distinctive howl, and emit a "trill", described as similar to a sound made by the Dhole (Cuon alpinus.)[11]

The Kalam people of the Papuan Highlands capture pups and raise them as pets and hunting dogs, but do not breed the NGSDs. Wild dogs (not village dogs) are sometimes eaten.[12]

The taxonomy of the NGSD continues to be investigated. Naming systems are not random, but agreed upon internationally. As new information becomes available, naming may change.

The United Kennel Club began registering them as a dog breed in January 1996, in the Sighthounds & Pariah Group. The American Rare Breed Association also registers them as a dog breed, in their Spitz & Primitive Group[citation needed].

See also


  1. ^ Corbett (2004). Canis lupus ssp. dingo. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 2007-01-06. IUCN groups the Singer with the Dingo.
  2. ^ "New Guinea Singing Dog: Overview". New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society - The Official Website [1] Retrieved January 30, 2010
  3. ^ Helgen, K.M. 2007. "A Taxonomic and Geographic Overview of the Mammals of Papua." Pp. in the Ecology of Papua (Ecology of Indonesia Series, Volume VI, Part One) (Marshall, A.J. and Beehler, B.M.) Periplus Editions
  4. ^ "New Guinea Singing Dog: Overview". New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society - The Official Website [2] Retrieved January 30, 2010
  5. ^ Journal of Zoology Volume 261, Part 2, October 2003
  6. ^ Don E. Wilson & DeeAnn M. Reeder (editors). 2005. Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), Johns Hopkins University Press
  7. ^ Abstract of article "THE NEW GUINEA SINGING (WILD) DOG"
  8. ^ "New Guinea Singing Dog: History". New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society - The Official Website [3] Retrieved January 30, 2010.
  9. ^ "An Updated description of the New Guinea Singing Dog". J. Zool, Lond. (2003). pp. pg 5. doi:10.1017/S0952836903004060. 
  10. ^ Rare Breed Network. "Rare Breed Network: New Guinea Singing Dog Standard". Retrieved 12/23 2008. 
  11. ^ "An Updated description of the New Guinea Singing Dog". J. Zool, Lond. (2003). pp. pg 6. doi:10.1017/S0952836903004060. 
  12. ^ ibid. pg. 7

Further Reading (Published)

  • Koler-Matznick, J., B. C. Yates, S. Bulmer, and I. L. Brisbin, Jr.. "The New Guinea Singing Dog: Its Status and Scientific Importance". Australian Mammalogy 29: 47–56. 
  • Koler-Matznick, J., I.L. Brisbin, Jr., and M. Feinstein. 2004. "An Ethogram of the New Guinea Singing Dog, Canis hallstromi". New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society: Central Point, Oregon, USA. 
  • Koler-Matznick, J., I. L. Brisbin, Jr., M. Feinstein and S. Bulmer. 2003. "An Updated Description of the New Guinea Singing Dog (Canis hallstromi Troughton, 1957)". Journal of Zoology (London) 261: 109–118. 
  • Koler-Matznick, J., I. L. Brisbin, Jr., and J. McIntyre. 2001. "The New Guinea Singing Dog:a Living Primitive Dog. Pp 239-247". Proceedings International Council for Archaeozoology Annual Meeting, Victoria, Canada, 1999 BAR International Series 889 ed. by S. J. Crockfood. Archaeopress: Oxford. 
  • Bino, R.. "Notes on Behavior of New Guinea Singing Dogs (Canis lupus dingo). 1996". Science in New Guinea, 22 (1), pp 43-47. Field Study of NGSD. 
  • Boessneck, V. J. and Ute Meyer-Lemppenau.. "A Collection of Dog Skulls from Papua. Expedition to Mt. Bosavi in 1968". Schultz-Westram. In German with excepts translated into English. 

External links



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